Curatorial Projects > Frankenstein's Hearts (2001-02)

Frankenstein's Hearts

A Project by Kim Abeles in partnership with The San Francisco Art Institute’s Youth Arts Collaborative

November 14, 2001 - January 19, 2002
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Participating Artists: Christine Amemiya, Naseem Badiey (San Francisco Art Institute), Behroo Bagheri, Nicole Bergren, Antonia Berry, Amanda Blanton (San Francisco Art Institute), Betsy Boyle (San Francisco Art Institute), Roberta Brooks (Youth Leadership Academy), Therese Buchmiller (Assistant Artist), Awais Chughtai, Sara M. Cochron, Ifafunke Dadigbolu (Youth Leadership Academy), Veronica Delgadillo (Youth Leadership Academy), Hana Dorani, Adriana M. Escobar, Edyth Gonzalez, Alicia Green, Rachel Iantosca, Erin Bradford Kelly, Donna Klebe, Hong T. Lam, Kristine Lankovska, Oscar Mancia, James Matzen, Melanie Miles (Youth Leadership Academy), Zoe Moore, Christopher Paez, Robert Payne, Dana Roe, Daniel Rogers, Yensing Sihapanya (Youth Leadership Academy), Karin Simonian, Patricia Swayze, Armando Torres, Jessica Tully (San Francisco Art Institute), and Kelly Walsh

Artist, activist, teacher and sleuth Kim Abeles spearheads a collaborative project that translates stories from our community’s elders into a collective visual language of color, symbol, image, texture, signifier, form and shape. Involving over thirty individuals from both Northern and Southern California, this exhibition demonstrates how the research and art-making process itself can become visually democratized and materialized. Incorporating assemblage, illustration, written documentation, and a large sculptural sarcophagus containing “body parts” made from each of the participants’ artwork, Frankenstein’s Hearts transforms our gallery into a multi-layered display of love stories, war stories, family stories, immigration stories - in essence a pictoral narrative of life lived through decades.

For over twenty years, Abeles has applied her distinctive research-gathering process in a variety of disciplines – biology, ecology, history, philosophy – to tackle such contemporary social issues as labor relations, AIDS awareness, environmental pollution, racism, and gender equality, opening up a broad dialogue about her subject matter and the nature and scope of contemporary art practices. Her work embodies the democratic spirit of French Encyclopédie Editor Denis Diderot’s 18th century zeal to spread and transmit knowledge. This exhibition is an extension of Abeles’ biographical portraits that have been a prominent theme in her prolific body of work. With a hybrid scientific/artistic methodology based upon objective investigation and subjective creation, she uses this notion of portraiture as the foundation for this project. The result balances form with content, metaphor with fact.

Through conversational interviews, a group of local youth from the Youth Leadership Academy of St. John’s Urban Institute and students from The San Francisco Art Institute, and Abeles’ students at Cal State Northridge, have gathered facts and anecdotes of the often neglected and culturally marginalized members of our society – our grandmothers, grandfathers, read: our elders. Guided and joined by Abeles and local assistant artist Therese Buchmiller, participants in this project have utilized Abeles’ unique research and production methodology to create, as Abeles describes her own assemblages, “worlds deconstructed from lost parts: researched, unearthed, and fabricated.” Each vertical section represents an older person as visualized by the participants. By equalizing each person’s characteristics on the horizontal bands of color, the images, objects and text lead into and illuminate one another in surprisingly unexpected ways. History itself becomes recreated through the eyes and hands of the next generation. How would your portrait look?